How to feel productive when you’re really not

If you’re anything like me, you feel a weird, unwarranted sense of guilt when you don’t do ANY school-related work for an entire day. I mean, I’ve never been a fan of bringing home actual work to do, like grading (obviously). But, I don’t feel like an entire day should go by that I don’t advance myself as a teacher. I mean, when you’re a teacher, you never really stop teaching. Like, ever. (Sorry, had to T-Swift it up there for a second.)

So, what else is there to do but trick yourself into feeling productive? Here are a few ways to do just that:


Productivity Ploy #1: Watch subject-area videos

I know I sound like a total loser, but sometimes I actually fire up Netflix or PBS or the Discovery Channel and watch science videos. It makes me feel like I’m doing research for my courses (which I guess I actually am). I’ve even used some of the videos in class! I feel productive just talking about it…

Productivity Ploy #2: Write short, fun notes to your students

This is a lot easier than doing actual teacher-y work. If you have a few students that have been doing an exemplary job, let them know. Just use 3×5 cards, or whatever you have on hand. You’ll feel like the best teacher ever.

Productivity Ploy #3: Journal about teaching

If you keep a journal, focus on being a teacher in today’s entry. If you don’t keep one (which I recommend you start), start a teacher journal. You’ll reflect on your teaching, thus becoming better, and keep a record of your thoughts and feelings at the same time. Later on down the road you’ll revisit your entries and smile about how awesome you were (or naïve, whichever is the case).

Productivity Ploy #4: Have an impromptu, informal PLC (PLT, Collaborative Learning Community, whatever)

Get a few teacher friends together to discuss your teaching. You can also discuss your colleagues, your students, your administration, or really anything else that makes you feel productive. I recommend this meeting be held at a local bar.

Productivity Ploy #5: Pick one really intense task that needs to be done and spend about 10 minutes on it

For me, it’s writing that important email to my administration that I’ve been meaning to write. Or creating that rubric that should have been done a week ago. Or updating my class website. Whatever task you have to do, even if you only spend a few minutes on it, you’ll feel so accomplished that you completed it. Sprinting is always easier than running a marathon. Well, both kinda suck.


Even if you’re tricking yourself into thinking it, feeling at least a little productive will make you feel so much better about yourself as a teacher. Which will make you smile. Mission accomplished.


I have a unique perspective on teaching. As a young guy, I still have that “world is my oyster” perspective on life, so I am more than willing to try new things in the pursuit of happiness. I have always been a naturally happy person and don’t shy away from trying to make others see that it’s easy to be happy! Thus, the blog you’re reading. The main impetus for actually putting all the work in to getting this blog up and running? A coworker stopped me in the hall one day and actually reprimanded me for being so smiley all the time. They actually said that I shouldn’t be so happy as a teacher! My response? Screw that! I SHOULD be happy. I now smile at that coworker EVERY time I see them…and usually say something like, “Isn’t this such great day to be a teacher?!” They don’t usually smile back… Don’t be like them.

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